Chaos erupted in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson as protests of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen descended into looting, rioting and arson Sunday night, resulting in 32 arrests and two injured officers.
The teen, 18-year-old Michael Brown, a recent high school graduate, was in a struggle over a police officer’s gun when he was shot, according to officials. But his mother, Lesley McSpadden, rejects the official version and wants the officer who fired the lethal shots to receive the death penalty.
“We want that cop fired!” cried one protester.
“We ain’t gonna’ hurt ya’, we just want the police to feel our pain,” said another to Fox 2 local news.
The looting and rioting began late Sunday, prompting more than 15 other police units to respond to Ferguson.
Thousands turned from marching to hostility directed at the police officers and media on the scene. Media trucks were vandalized, and a police officer was struck in the head with a bottle.
KTVI-TV in St. Louis reported a QuikTrip convenience store was looted and burned. Numerous reports later rolled in of other looted and burned buildings, including gas stations, grocery stores, phone companies and homes.
Video footage showed looters carrying cases of beer and other items into the street, despite the family of the Michael Brown calling for calm during their time of grief.
Officers in full riot gear ultimately brought the crowds under control at about 3:30 a.m. Monday.
The violence comes on the heels of many accusations in recent months of police brutality. One woman claimed police were using mace and dogs to quiet children who were vocal participants in the protests. Others insist the police are doing their best under the circumstances.
Organizers of a website called Operation Ferguson made demands and threats directed at Ferguson authorities.
The international “hacktivist”organization “Anonymous” has demanded that Congress introduce a bill called “Mike Brown’s Law” to enact strict national standards for police conduct. They further demand that the new law “grant the victims of police violence the same rights and prerogatives that are already enjoyed nationwide by the victims of other violent criminals.”
Anonymous called on residents of Ferguson to “occupy every square inch” of their city and help the protesters in any way they can.
The group also issued threats.
Anonymous vowed that if protesters are harmed in any way, it will “take every web based asset” of the government offline. It further said that if the protesters were attacked, it would “release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department” and any others involved.
Anonymous ominously closed with: “We are Anonymous – We are Legion – We will not forgive – We will not forget.”
The group charged in a statement that the police “shot an unarmed teen six times and killed him.”
“His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while the police militarized the area against protesters and attempted to concoct a reasonable story as to why they snatched this innocent students (sic) life.”
Local computer programmer and Ferguson resident Nick Kasoff told WND he is “somewhat uncomfortable” with the Anonymous hacktivist group. But he believes police brutality in the U.S. is a big problem.
“Between the ‘war on drugs’ and writing speeding tickets, most people have had multiple negative experiences with law enforcement,” he said.
Kasoff said he has been a victim of crime and that his personal experience with law enforcement has been poor.
“I believe every police officer should wear a body camera, and every officer’s body camera should be accessible to the public online at the end of his shift, unless there is a compelling reason to censor it,” he said.
Kasoff believes common sense and freedom-of-information-type solutions such as his would eliminate much of the abuse.
“Sadly, I’m not entirely convinced that the political process is going to bring the needed charges.”
Kasoff said it’s why groups such as Anonymous and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden resort to other methods.
St. Louis County police promise a thorough investigation of the incident, and the Justice Department is “watching the situation.” The family of Michael Brown has hired Benjamin Crump, the attorney who handled the Trayvon Martin case.
“It’s sad, frustrating and disappointing,” said Randy Alaniz, a local resident. “The shooting is tragic, and a thorough investigation needs to take place.”
He noted the Ferguson police chief immediately called in the St. Louis County police to investigate.
“However, with the national publicity this situation is garnering, I imagine the FBI will be called in, if they haven’t already,” he said. “As far as the rioting, I feel for the city of Ferguson, at large. The residents and the business community have worked hard over the years to stem the tide of decay and move the community forward. I fear this could be a major setback to those efforts.”
Enraged protesters are now calling for boycotts of all businesses in Ferguson.